W. MI hockey ref chose service over Olympic dreams

An undated photo of Dave Rost as a collegiate player at West Point.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In the middle of a sentence, retired U.S. Army Capt. Dave Rost paused for a moment as if to look at a snapshot his mind took years ago.

In 1974, Rost enrolled in the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York. Although serving his country drew him to the military, he also had an opportunity to play collegiate hockey for the Black Knights.

“Since they also had a hockey team, I figured, ‘Oh hockey would be a good throw in,’” he said.

During his career, Rost racked up NCAA records like career points and assists, both of which are still standing. His jersey currently hangs in the rafters of Army’s Tate Rink.

Photo: Dave Rost’s number hangs in the rafters at Tate Rink in West Point, New York.

He was a player of Olympic caliber, but the 1980 Winter Olympics came three years after his graduation. By the time it was 1980, Rost had begun his five-year service commitment in Germany and wasn’t playing much hockey.

“It just wasn’t meant to be,” he said.

As the 1980 Olympics approached, Rost wrote off the idea of trying out for Team USA. His college coach, Jack Riley, was an assistant on the 1960 gold medal team and urged him to take a leave from service to try out.

“It was either you go for personal gain or personal goal, and I thought pursuing the military and serving this country was a step above my own personal desire to find some way politically through the channels to go out for the Olympics,” said Rost. “I agreed to do what I said I would do when I graduated from the academy and that was (to) give five years of service.”

Team USA won the gold medal in 1980 over the Soviet Union, who had won the gold in six of seven previous Winter Olympics. It’s considered one of the greatest moments in American sports history.

Rost still doesn’t regret his decision.

“I did the right thing, I served this country. I had the ultimate sweater,” said Rost. “I don’t have any regrets, I just don’t.”

Rost served for 12 years before retiring as a captain.

“There’s nothing better than serving this country, nothing,” said Rost.

Now, he’s still serving, but in a much different way. He has become a hockey referee, officiating 6-8 games per week.

Rost also spends a lot of time coaching his grandchildren at Southside Ice Arena in Byron Center.